The colonialists never gave true independence to former colonies. The so-called independence was a strategic withdrawal particularly from the Muslim parts of the world in the wake of colonialists’ waning power. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the strategic withdrawal has once more turned into strategic advance under the banner of spreading democracy and fighting terrorism. Can the centuries-old, never-ending colonialism be re-consolidated in the Muslim world in the name of democracy? Today this might be the single most pressing question for the warlords in Washington, London and other colonial capitals of the modern age, and this book sets out to answer it.
Close to two decades ago, before crusade in the name of democracy became a household word–”before fascism became mainstream–”new totalitarian tendencies re-emerged in the Western discourse and policies. It was one of the results of the demise of Soviet Union. The totalitarians’ love for democracy was exposed soon after its trial run in an Arab state outside the international spotlight. What happened there shows the course for the Western policies that are now being re-forged in the crucible of the so-called war on terror. It is there that the story of the final encounter between the West, led by the United States of America and the Muslim world’s unfinished struggle for self-determination begins.
In 1989, that year of revolutions, unglamorous Algeria was an unlikely candidate for democratic change. Perched on the rim of North Africa, far from the upheavals of Eastern Europe, Algeria had been home to a romantic liberation movement that had evicted the French after a hard-fought guerrilla war. Yet the liberation movement had morphed, by way of a 1965 coup, into an autocratic, quasi-military, socialist regime. The sole political party, the Front de Liberation National, had not permitted real elections since shortly after independence.
Starting in late 1988, young Algerians began a series of protests that led to a new constitution promising fundamental rights and political parties other than the FLN. The spirit of 1989 was abroad. In June 1990, in the first local elections under the new constitution, a newly formed Islamic party, the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS), came more or less from nowhere to win 62 percent of the votes cast. The FLN, which could boast that it had liberated Algeria from the French, came in at 28 percent.
One could almost hear the whispered soul-searching starting in foreign ministries of the former colonialists, who were exercising their remote control colonialism through puppet regimes and tyrants established in the former colonies. If elections were going to replace these dictators in the Muslim world, as they seemed to be doing in the Eastern bloc and beyond, would Islamic parties do this well everywhere? Would democratically elected governments be good or bad for Western interests particularly if they proceed to establish Islam?
Although democracy seemed like the desirable result of victory in the Cold War, the Algerian election suggested otherwise: Could democracy be an unalloyed good if Muslim states chose leaders with Islamic orientation who would say good-bye to secularism and governing mechanism which continue to indirectly serve interests of the former colonial masters? The fear of an end to the de facto colonization of the Muslim world led various initiatives on intellectual, political, media and military fronts in the West. The objective of these initiatives has been to restrict any Islamic state from coming into existence.
The conceptualization of Islam as a threat was to reconsolidate colonization, which brought under European rule many areas of the Muslim world. The de facto colonization after the so-called independence had created European and American dominance in the political and military spheres of the Muslim world. It also had reconstituted its image of the Muslim world in scholarship. The exigencies of the establishment of colonial states within Muslim space effectively meant the disconnection of civil and religious society. The nature and effects of this disconnection in the specific context of Algeria and the Western reaction to its democratic exercise is the subject of this introduction to see how efforts were redoubled to consolidate the direct and indirect occupation of the Muslim world after the Soviet demise.
The success of the religious party in Algeria became the stuff of high-level policy-making in the colonial capitals. In Washington, the experts were divided on how to react. Some Islamophobes, who were sincerely worried about Muslims’ exercising their right to self-determination, propagated the fear that if the FIS took office, it might abolish elections. Others tried to establish a link to the strategic interests of the United States. Ignoring the role of the United States in the Iranian history, Islamophobes touted Iran and argued that states run by Islamist parties could be terribly anti-American, and might export terror. Still others, either optimistic or pragmatic, pointed out that the United States could form a friendship with an Islamic state. They also ignored the fact that Islamic state does not come to being just by winning elections in an un-Islamic system. These analysts argued that after all, America’s close ally Saudi Arabia was a traditional monarchy in which Islamic law prevailed. The mistake again lies in the fact that mere imposition of Islamic law (Shari’ah) does not make a state Islamic. It is just one part of the socio-political and economic order that is required for establishing Islam as a Deen–”way of life.
Algeria was plunged into a bloody civil war that has since killed at least 100,000 people. The experiment with representative democracy in the Muslim world was over before it could get started. Western policy was now firmly on the side of the autocrats, opportunists and puppets against the will of the people. This is what we see in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and almost all over the Muslim world. That was the beginning to consummating modern day fascism. The over all assessment of the Muslim and non-Muslim world shows that the humanity is going through the age of democratic fascism–”the kind of fascism that is worse than all kinds of oppression the humankind has faced so far.
The above is an excerpt from Abid Ullah Jan’s latest book, "After Fascism: Muslims and the Struggle for Self-determination." Avaliable at:
Also see: "The ICSSA"